Despite what you might think, the most debauched minds in Brooklyn do not reside on the Coney Island boardwalk or even in Borough Hall. No, our area’s most bloodthirsty butchers live in Park Slope — and one of them drives a station wagon!
Sure, Jeremy Saulnier seemed like a nice guy — when the baby-faced director sat down for an exclusive interview with GO Brooklyn, his wife was about a week away from giving birth — but take a look at the Park Slope director’s latest film, “Murder Party,” which was released on DVD this month, and you’ll see another side to the seemingly mild-mannered Virginia native.
“I’ve always done, if not horror, violence,” Saulnier (pronounced: “sewn-yay”) said over huevos rancheros and iced coffee at Dizzy’s on Eighth Avenue. “Adolescent boys gravitate towards violence, large scale gore and mayhem.”
In “Murder Party,” there’s plenty of it. To make the film, Saulnier, 31, rounded up his childhood pals — they’ve been making movies together since elementary school — added five gallons of fake blood and, well, took a stab at it.
“We were workshopping a coming-of-age type of film, and we did a short called ‘Crabwalk,’ which is in that vein,” said Saulnier. “That got us some attention on the festival circuit, and we won a few awards and got some calls from out West. We were this ensemble force, and we wanted to cast ourselves and be in charge of our own debut feature film, so I was like, “F—k it, let’s just do ‘Murder Party.’ ”
Having made a name for himself directing commercials, Saulnier was confident that he and his band of merry men and women could pull off a gory, funny film without becoming entangled in a studio’s red tape.
“Unintentional circumstances led to me directing commercials where there was a ton of bureaucracy,” he said. “I said, ‘Forget it, I’ll just blow all my cash on the movie.’ ”
So the film, which ended up costing close to $200,000, began coming together in February 2006.
“I took some time off of work and was writing in my dining room for about three months,” said Saulnier. “We decided upon a shoot date before the script was finished, and we delivered the script the night before we shot. So it was intense but really exciting. I stopped being hung up on how I would become a famous young director, and we just got the crew together to have a good time.”
And that they did.
With a cast of nine, the movie takes place on a blustery Halloween night in Williamsburg. The movie’s hero, Christopher (played by Chris Sharp), having found a party invitation on the ground, makes his way to a creepy loft space for a night of revelry. His hosts — a cabal of deranged, strung-out artists — are thinking more along the lines of massacres than masquerades, though, and his arrival kicks off a comical bloodbath that relies more heavily on gore than the Nobel Prize committee.
But Saulnier and company aren’t saying that all L-train Brooklynites are killers, right?
“I lived in Williamsburg in 1997 during the height of the gentrification process, and Sandy Barnett [who played Alexander, a purported art guru in the film] came to crash on my couch,” said Saulnier.
“He was a punk rock guy looking for a job for the summer and had experience as a chef, so he walked up and down Bedford trying to get a job as a fry cook. He would be asked if he was an artist, and he would say ‘no,’ and they wouldn’t hire him,” he continued. “It was insane. He was trying to flip burgers, and he was denied, because he wasn’t an artist.”
Yet the eccentric locals were only part of the charm of this satire.
“We were definitely making fun of the Williamsburg scene, but we were also making fun of ourselves,” said Sharp, the movie’s star. “All of us are dudes on the outskirts, trying to break into the art scene and have people think we’re cool and have for so long tried and failed. We’re really just making fun of ourselves.”
But with a movie like this — hilarious, scary and totally of the moment — these filmmakers, who call themselves “The Lab of Madness,” will have the last laugh. “Murder Party” is currently touring movie theaters nationwide with the notorious slasher bomb “Grindhouse,” and the group — who still all have day jobs — have plenty of material for future films.
And with just days before his wife was to give birth, Saulnier was optimistic about fatherhood and horror filmmaking.
“I was getting a little too old, now I get to enjoy Halloween,” he said. “But it’s hard to find gruesome costumes that will fit an infant.”
“Murder Party” is available for rental at Reel Life [209 Bedford Ave. at North Fifth Street in Williamsburg, (718) 302-9747] and Video Forum [133 Seventh Ave. at Carroll Street in Park Slope, (718) 857-5707]. For information, visit www.murderpartymovie.com.